The picturesque coastal city of Prince Rupert nestles narrowly on a small, mountainous island at the mouth of the Skeena River, one of the longest undammed rivers remaining in the world, where a few dozen kilometers west, the swells of the open Pacific Ocean make landfall. The deep-water harbour that flanks Kaien Island has been an asset to the people who have lived in this area for thousands of years, far longer than Prince Rupert’s current incarnation, and continues to be integral to its future.
Even just a hundred and twenty-five years ago, a visitor to the area where Prince Rupert now lies would have seen no large single community but rather a number of small Tsimshian villages that served as seasonal encampments during times of food harvesting. Today, coastal Indigenous culture enriches Prince Rupert’s existence, and continues to resonate with legend and connection to the land and sea.
From any vantage point overlooking the water, one of Prince Rupert’s main economic drivers is immediately apparent in the numerous freighters from around the world anchored in the harbour. The Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) has spent the last decade encouraging the development of a multi-crane container port. Prince Rupert is also a summer cruise ship destination and can be accessed by ferry from Vancouver Island or by train from Jasper, Alberta.
Perched as it is on the edge of some of the most species-rich coastal waters in the world, Prince Rupert is unsurprisingly a fishing town through and through. While the commercial canneries that powered the local economy for decades no longer operate in the same capacity, you can tour – and even stay at – restored canneries just 25 minutes from downtown Prince Rupert. Different seafoods are harvested depending on the time of year, but salmon, halibut, and crab are some of the main prizes.
If wildlife is on your list, Prince Rupert is a great place to see incredible animals. For marine wildlife, join a tour that will explore nearby stomping grounds for humpback whales. For the big-ticket land mammals, you’ll want to get up to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary where you’ll have an intimate glimpse of the extraordinary grizzly bear.
Prince Rupert is extremely unique in that many of the businesses in town are independently owned and operated. You can of course find fast food restaurants and the ubiquitous Canadian coffee chain in town, but for the most part Prince Rupert businesses and their owners are truly one-of-a-kind.